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Fish River Canyon

Commonly referred to as one of Africa’s greatest natural wonders, the humungous Fish River Canyon in southern Namibia will fascinate any adventurous traveler. It is claimed that the Fish River Canyon is the second largest canyon in the world coming second only to the Grand Canyon in the United States. It measures 160km in length and up to 27km wide, but those numbers may not mean much until you are actually there, taking in the enormity of it. To fully appreciate this natural wonder, you will need to embark on a long hike, which will test your mental and physical willpower.

After drinking in the views and realizing you are somewhere special, prepare yourself for the hiking adventure that awaits you. While that may seem challenging, the feeling of accomplishment and wonder you will receive at the end far outweighs the struggles of the hike.


The Hike

The Fish River trail takes 5 days to complete, beginning in Hobas and ending in Ai-Ais. It’s a long 85km route, but you will be rewarded along the way with some of Africa’s most beautiful landscapes. Due to extreme weather conditions, the trail is only available from May to September.

Here is a brief outline of what you can expect;

  • Hobas: you will begin the 12 km trek south of Hobas campsite, where you will go down into the belly of the canyon. It is a half-mile descent, which takes up to 2 hours and is by far the most physically challenging part of the trail. It is the easiest to complete in the afternoon when the sun isn’t so strong. You will make camp at the bottom.

  • Palm Springs: Day 2 is comprised of a 13 km long trek along the upper canyon where you will witness some of the most stunning scenery made up of unique rock formations formed over billions of years. You will see loads of huge boulders along the way and if you’re lucky, you will come across some shaded rock pools to swim in.

  • Three Sisters: this is one of the easier days. Along the way, you will see hyraxes, klipspringer antelopes and if luck is on your side, you’ll catch the Hartmann’s mountain zebra walking around. Along the way you will see a couple of famous rock formations including the Three Sisters rock towers and a small ‘Table Mountain’.

  • Flora and Fauna: on Day 4, you will walk along a 20km stretch that features some of Namibia’s most interesting flora and fauna, including Namibia’s national tree, the spiky desert-like quiver tree. Don’t be alarmed if you see wild horses roaming around. There is a myth that they were abandoned after the Great War by German colonists.

  • Getting to Ai-Ais: the remaining 30km can be done in one day if you’re going fast or into a less intense two-day hike. It is a pretty flat walk which leads you to the Ai-Ais springs where you will end the trail. Ai-Ai’s translates to ‘burning water’ and takes its name from the natural hot springs that await you at the elegant Ai-Ais Hot Springs Spa.

Practical Tips

There are a few things you need to know in preparation of your hike

  • You need to make a reservation through Namibia Wildlife Resorts (NWR), the company that runs the canyon.
  • You need to show a medical certificate of fitness from your doctor and complete an indemnity form provided by NWR
  • You will be walking for at least 6 hours a day so expect a lot of physical activity
  • You will be carrying all essential equipment such as food, water and medical supplies. No amenities are available on the hike.
  • Accommodation at a campsite can be booked in advance.

The Fish River Trail is by no means easy, but if you are going to journey out to Namibia, it really can’t be missed. It is one of the most beautiful trails in Africa and if you brave it you will not be disappointed by the stunning nature. Hiking Fish River Canyon is one of the most adventurous trails you will embark on but by completing it you will be rewarded with one of the most beautiful excursions in Africa.

Apart from the trail, self-drive tourists, photographers and nature lovers are attracted to this long, thin, gallivant river, which has over 1600 different plant species. Other outstanding points are at Hell's Corner and Sulpher Springs. The environment of this eye-catching surrounding embraces a number of habitats, grasping several species of mammals, reptiles, insects and fish that live within the river's natural pools.